Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

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A Rare and Precious Gift

March 4, 2011

On my way home from a client appointment yesterday, I stopped at a local store to buy a birthday present for the love of my life. The store is quiet and there are more salespeople than customers filling the aisles. I take my time, browsing in various departments for that perfect gift. I am not in a rush like I usually am, having finished my work for the day, and feel satisfied that my time with the client was extremely productive. I am happy and content. My life may not be perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

After selecting a gift that I hope will be a big hit, and picking up a new cd for myself, I pay for my items and exit the store. I can’t wait to get in my car, open the cd, and insert it into the car’s stereo and crank the volume on the soundtrack for my drive home. As the first notes explode from my car’s speakers, I head for the exit to the parking lot. Sitting on a mound of grass to the right of the exit is a woman holding up a cardboard sign. From the distance I can’t make out the words on the sign. But as I approach, the handwritten words come into focus. “Single Unemployed mom needs help.” Sadness overcomes me. I look at the sign holder. She appears to be in her 30’s, is clean and neatly dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt. Her shoulder length auburn hair is neatly combed and she is wearing a defeated and sad expression. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, being so desperate and hopeless, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Her eyes catch mine for a moment. She looks away and lowers her sign.

About a-week-and-a-half ago I was in New Orleans, finishing up a seminar on the persuasive power of psychodrama. For four days my dearest friends and I worked with trial lawyers from all over the country, teaching them the basic tools of psychodrama and how to apply them to their practices. After finishing our last session and packing up our materials, we decide to spend some time exploring the French Quarter, a place we had little time to enjoy during the program.

Now if you ever go to New Orleans, you must visit the world famous Café DuMonde and sample the delicious, addictive and thigh destroying beignets. On this Sunday afternoon of a three-day weekend, I need a beignet fix. My friends and I arrive at this landmark establishment and discover a huge line snaking down the block.  Even the line for take out is enormous. After a wait, which isn’t too bad since one of the busboys is taking orders from those of us at the back of the line so we don’t have to waste too much time, and beignets in hand, my friends and I head out of the bustling Quarter to walk along the riverfront towards our hotel.

As we near the holocaust memorial, a man comes running from the side path waving his arms and pointing behind him, “please, someone call 911. She is having a seizure. Give me a cell phone so I can call 911.” Most of the people strolling along the riverfront ignore his pleas and pass by.

“I need a cell phone. Please. We need to call 911. She is having a seizure.” People continue walking past, as if they are deaf and the frantic man invisible. He is dirty and thin, wearing jeans and a jacket over a t-shirt with a dirty baseball cap on his head. I look in the direction he is pointing and see two other people, a black woman, short, chubby and shabbily dressed. She is staggering around near the park bench from where the man came. When she tries to stand, she staggers a few steps and then falls down on the bench. Across from her is an elderly man with long stringy hair and a wild, unkempt beard. He tries to help the woman sit, but isn’t too steady himself. Again the man in the cap calls out, “she is having a seizure, I need a cell phone to call 911.”

My friends and I stop and look again in the direction he is pointing. “Please, someone call 911.” I pull my cell phone from my pocket and shout to him, “I will call 911.” I dial 911 and a dispatcher answers. “What is your emergency?”

“We need paramedics on the riverfront walk, a woman is having a seizure.”

“Where are you?”

“On the riverfront walk, right near the holocaust memorial. Between the holocaust memorial and the IMAX.”

“Holo what?”

“The holocaust memorial.”

“Hotel, what hotel?” I pull my phone away from my ear and look incredulously at my friends.

I put the phone back to my ear, “No! The HOLOCAUST memorial. H-O-L-O-C-A-U-S-T.”

“What is happening?”

“A woman is having a seizure.”

“Oh, O.K. You need an ambulance, not the police. What is your number and I will have them call you.”  I can’t believe this. Here we are with an emergency and they can’t figure out where we are and then they tell us we have called the wrong place. I give the dispatcher my number.

Within seconds, my phone rings. A male voice is on the other end. “What is your emergency?” I repeat the information and tell him where we are. He starts asking questions about cross streets and addresses.

“I’m not from here. I don’t know the cross streets.” Getting help for a woman having a seizure should really not be this hard.

By this time, a couple walking by stops near us and is watching the homeless woman, who by now, is being held tightly by the man in the baseball cap. “I’ve got you Martha. I’m right here. I am not going to let you get hurt.” She is struggling to free herself. Her speech is slurred and one side of her face droops. At times she seems to convulse slightly. He holds her on his lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her.  She struggles to get free, “I want to go.”

“Martha, you are having a seizure. I am not letting you go.”

The couple overhears me trying to give our location to the ambulance dispatcher and approaches us. “I’m from here,” the male member of the couple says as he reaches out for me to give him my phone. I hand it over and he gives the information the dispatcher needs to send help. He hands back the phone and the dispatcher tells me to please watch for the ambulance and to flag them down when they arrive.

I call out to the man in the baseball cap, “They are sending an ambulance.”

“Thank you.” I hear the relief in his voice and see it in his eyes.

My friends and I stay nearby waiting for the ambulance to arrive. We want to make sure they come, and when they arrive that they help this woman. We watch the man in the cap hold Martha and try to soothe her. “You are my best friend Martha. You need help. I am not going to let you go.” She is struggling and appears a little out of it.

“I’m ok.” She whines.

“No, your not. You are having a seizure. You were seizing for 3 minutes. You need to go to the hospital.”

“No! I don’t want to go.” Her agitation increases as she tries to escape his hold.

“They hurt me.” She holds up her arm and her soiled sleeve slips down toward her elbow revealing a large swollen area on her forearm.

“They hurt me with the needle. I don’t want to go!”

“I promised Martha. You are my best friend. I love you. I promised. I am not letting you go. You need help.” He tries to calm her and keep her still.

“Yes Maatha. Yo haf ta gota the hospital.” Slurs the old man who is with them. He looks at the man in the cap. “You goin wif heh?”

“I will be with you Martha. I am not going to leave you. You are my best friend. I love you.”

“They hurt me. See, they hurt me.” Again she holds up her arm.

“I am airborne and I will go with you. You are my best friend.”

We watch, in silence, each of us deep in our own thoughts.

A siren in the distance breaks the spell.

The man who gave directions to the ambulance dispatcher calls to us, “We’ll go flag down the ambulance and direct them over here.” They head off towards the street.

Other than the four of us, and the couple who head off to flag down the ambulance, no one else has stopped. No one has even noticed what is happening. In fact, people are purposely avoiding the area where we are all gathered.

A man in a golf cart, who appears to be some sort of security patrol, drives over to the park bench where the man in the ball cap is holding Martha.

“You people need to leave.” He starts to get out of the golf cart to chase them off.

“She is having a seizure. We have called an ambulance and they are on their way,” we tell him. He gets in his golf cart and drives away.

The ambulance finally arrives and paramedics along with a gurney join us. Martha is still struggling and resisting help. The man in the ball cap stays right by her side, talking to her calmly, promising not to leave.

Eventually the paramedics succeed in lifting Martha on to the gurney and strap her down. She continues to struggle as they wheel her down the grassy hill towards the ambulance, all while her best friend, the man in the ball cap stays by her side.

The four of us stand there together watching, Martha’s cries fading away. None of us have words. We leave the riverfront walk behind us, and slowly head back into the French Quarter. I look at my three friends and am filled with immense love and gratitude. Martha may be homeless, but she has something truly rare, a real friend who is there for her and doesn’t leave her side when she needs him most. And that is a precious and rare gift.

I look at the women I am with. Amazing, kind, loving women. I know in my heart that each of them is my man in the baseball cap.

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So Much to Be Thankful For

November 18, 2010

 

The 3 Sisters (from left) Mary Peckham, Joane Garcia-Colson, Fredilyn Sison

Had anyone asked us—the 3 Sisters, Mary, Fredi and I—ten years ago what we would be doing today, I doubt that any of us would have predicted that we would be part of a partnership created to help people, particularly trial lawyers, realize their full potential. And yet, that is exactly where we are.

The three of us met ten years ago when we were part of an organization that provides continuing legal education programs to trial lawyers. Through this experience, we were exposed to psychodrama. As many of you know who have read this blog, psychodrama is an action method, a way to communicate deeply and meaningfully. It is the exploration of the truth through dramatic action. A psychodrama not only brings out the humanity of people, but also the universal stories and truths that connect us all.

Psychodrama can be therapeutic as it gives participants the opportunity to explore events from their lives to gain greater understanding of the self and to begin to heal old wounds. Psychodrama also empowers those who experience it to become more fully present in the here and now, enjoy greater spontaneity, realize their own potential, and create the life they each want to lead.

Over the years, each of us dedicated ourselves to doing as much of our own personal work as possible so that we can better know who we are, how we came to be that way and what we can do to shape our future. Our journey has not always been easy and each of us has traveled psychodramatically through many painful moments from the past. With each passing experience, we grew as human beings and as lawyers.  By learning more about ourselves, we are more able to understand others.  Over the last ten to twelve years, we have shared our skill and knowledge of psychodrama with other lawyers across the country and helped them to discover and learn to use the tools of this powerful method to represent their clients. We have exposed them to ideas and techniques that can assist them both in preparing and presenting their clients’ stories in trial. Teaching at various workshops improved our skill and stimulated our creativity. These experiences also increased our desire to develop our skill and proficiency in using the psychodramatic method to help others.  After years of training and study, each of us was certified as a practitioner (CP) of psychodrama by the American Board of Examiners. Mary and I have continued our training and hope to soon be certified as trainers (TEP’s). Fredi, in her inimitable way, said, “Basta!”  The three of us continue to go to workshops, often together.  Psychodrama continues to help us each individually and provides many tools we call upon and employ both personally and professionally.  To say that our lives have been enhanced as a result of our exposure to psychodrama would be an understatement.

From left - Mary Peckham, Fredilyn Sison, Joane Garcia-Colson

In the mid 2000’s, we began to brainstorm ideas for working together, for taking our creative ideas and sharing them with others. Originally, our thoughts were simply playful, more fantastical than practical:  a 3 Sisters coffee house, bookstore, stand-up comedy and yarn shop. As we grew as people, our ideas grew. The idea of a Trial Boot Camp for Women took shape after several troubling experiences throughout the years. Two of us attended one program as part of the teaching staff where our male colleagues introduced the other male faculty as talented and skilled trial lawyers but ignored the many accomplishments of the female staff members. One of our friends, a courageous lawyer who does employment law, got up and started to introduce the talented lawyers she knew and named the women attorney staff in the room.  Other female professionals we have talked to over the years have had similar experiences and often feel invisible at seminars and workshops. Issues unique to women are rarely acknowledged, much less addressed with any sort of depth or understanding.  And so, we conceived the idea of a program where women could come together to work on issues unique to them and to meet and build relationships with other female trial lawyers.

In the late summer of 2009, Fredi and I began talking about making our idea of creating a program specifically for women trial lawyers a reality.  Our concept was to develop and design a program to nurture female trial lawyers and help them develop their own voice, recognize their unique talents as women and bring them into the courtroom. In September 2009, Mary, Fredi, Lynne Bratcher and I traveled to Colorado, where we brainstormed and outlined our ideas for a Women’s Trial Boot Camp.

After a successful inaugural run in May, 2010, we decided to create other programs with the same mission in mind.  We also wanted to invite other teachers with whom we enjoyed working in the past and who we believe share the same thoughts, ideas and feelings about teaching (Lynne, Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk) to join us.  We did not and do not intend to be a traditional provider of programs for trial lawyers or for women only. Our ideas, beliefs and vision are much broader. And men are more than welcome at all of our programs, with the exception of the Women’s Trial Boot Camp.

“Garcia-Colson, Sison, and Peckham intelligibly meld psychodrama and trial skills in an easily understandable book. As a pioneer in psychodramatic trial consulting, I highly recommend this book to lawyers and psychodramatists alike. J. L. Moreno would be pleased.” —John Nolte, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and trial consultant

It’s hard to imagine that we embarked on this great journey from a fun, playful conversation.  But that’s the nature of spontaneity and creativity.  We missed teaching together.   We wanted to do something different, something that was collaborative, receptive and adaptive.  We wanted to meet interesting and interested people.  We’ve accomplished a great deal this year—–2 programs, and coming next month, a book.

We wrote the book because we wanted to reach more people who were interested in being better lawyers for clients and to help them learn to master the tools of psychodrama.  We wished to keep the dream of Jacob Moreno, the father of psychodrama, alive.  The book’s name is Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama.  It is being published by Trial Guides.  We are extremely proud of it, as it will expose psychodrama to a wider audience.  Check out the book and reviews at: http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

Because of how well our 2010 programs have been received, we have four (4) programs planned for 2011:

  • Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama – Feb. 17-20 –  New Orleans, LA

  • Second Annual Women’s Trial Boot Camp – May 12-15  – Palm Springs, CA

  • The Art of Telling Our Clients’ Story – Aug. 11-14 – Portland, OR

  • Trial Intensive: Voir Dire and Group Formation – Oct. 20-23 – Palm Springs, CA

In addition to Lynne, Carl and Charlie, who will be faculty for one or more of the programs above, John Nolte will be our special guest at the New Orleans seminar.  Details about all of our programs and testimonials from participants can be found on our web site at http://www.the3sisters.org.

The Faculty for - The Art of Telling Our Clients' Stories (from left) Fredilyn Sison, Charlie Abourezk, Mary Peckham, Carl Bettinger, Joane Garcia-Colson

Our partnership is still is in its infancy. But we are filled with excitement and enthusiasm, and we love working with all the people we’ve met.  It’s been great collaborating with each other.  It’s nice to be teaching with old friends once again.  We have so many people to thank—those who supported us during tough times and those who have joined our journey, because we wouldn’t be here without them.  It’s been a spectacular year, and we are grateful for everything that has happened.  We look forward to next year!

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The Courage to Believe in Ourselves

April 6, 2010

I have been thinking a great deal about a friend of mine who has been stuck in an abusive relationship for years. No matter how bad it gets, she continues to stay. I have a very hard time understanding this. Why would anyone want to stay in a relationship where they are treated horribly, suffering verbal and emotional abuse regularly? Where they get less than they give?

My friend has no satisfying answers to explain her failure to leave. When we talk about the dysfunction of her relationship and I ask her why she doesn’t leave, the rationale she gives include statements such as “I am afraid,” “I have to stay in this relationship for financial reasons,” “I don’t want to be alone,” “If I keep trying harder, things will get better,” “If I just keep my mouth shut, things will be OK,” and even “This is the best I can do,” “I need this person,” or “I don’t know what I would do if I leave?” All of these reasons make me sad for my friend. She is a kind, caring and wonderful person but has little self esteem. She doesn’t realize how unhealthy and damaging this relationship is to her, both emotionally and psychologically. I have watched this strong, capable women dissolve into self loathing and paralysis. She feels stuck and even trapped. It is obvious to me and to her other friends that the longer she stays in this abusive relationship, the more destruction to her self esteem and self worth. The light of her spirit is fading and she is loosing the joy that once flowed freely from her heart.

I guess it is just human nature to believe what others tell us about ourselves or say about us. Many of us carry such wounds from childhood. If you hear from someone who is supposed to love and care about you that you are worthless, not good enough, or wrong, pretty soon you start to believe these things about yourself. Even when you know what is being said isn’t true. Even when you know the handcuffs being placed upon you by the relationship aren’t deserved and do nothing other than to impede your own self determination and put others in control of your life and your happiness.

When I have let those with whom I am in a relationship bring me down, destroy my self worth and esteem, treat me poorly, verbally or emotionally and psychologically abuse me, I often turn on myself and start adopting as true the messages those people tell me, even when I know deep inside myself that they are wrong. It is both a painful and an incredibly lonely place to find yourself. It is hard to shut out those messages and believe in yourself. I know. I have been there.

It takes tremendous courage to leave a relationship where you are being abused either verbally, emotionally, mentally and/or  psychologically. It may be harder than leaving a physically abusive relationship. After all, psychic wounds aren’t physical and no one can see them. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” But words often do more damage to us as people than physical injuries. Wounds to our psyche take time and effort to heal. They stay with us and impact all of our future relationships. Unless and until we find the courage to stand up for ourselves and believe we are deserving of better.

Our fears often immobilize us, keeping us trapped from growing and believing in ourselves. They keep us enmeshed with our abusers. They convince us we don’t deserve better and prevent us from defending ourselves, and often, from leaving.

When I have been in this situation, I have found that it helps  to look at my own issues and explore why I don’t feel I deserve better treatment. I ask myself, what in me propels me to tolerate such an unhealthy relationship? I talk to my friends. I have even spent time in therapy working on myself, my self esteem and self worth, exploring the issues that brought me to this place. And once I left the abusive relationship, I worked hard to build and nurture the relationships I have with people who value and appreciate me.

To my friend who is struggling, I am here for you. To listen, to lend a shoulder and to tell you how much you mean to me and how deserving you are of a healthy relationship where you are valued, appreciated and loved. All human beings are so deserving. Life is too short to waste energy on and with people who verbally, emotionally or psychologically abuse us, use us to make themselves feel better, stronger or more powerful, or who make us feel worthless and bad about ourselves.

I hope my friend finds the courage to believe in herself as much as I believe in her.

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More Musings on Friendship

February 3, 2010

I have written before on the topic of friendship and the meaning, to me, of what it means to be a “true friend.” I find myself returning to this topic time and time again because it is something that often occupies my mind; especially when there is a break in a relationship with a person whom I believed was my friend but who, for expediency or to preserve their relationships with people in positions of power, ceased communication, abandoned me and at times, have acted hostile or even hateful toward me. No matter the reason, the ending of a relationship with someone you believed was your friend, is painful; more so when no reason or explanation has been offered, leaving you to guess and speculate.

From my perspective, I don’t understand how friendship can be so easily abandoned and tossed aside. Why claim to be someone’s friend if you are not, or if you are willing to end the friendship to advance your own interests or because some other friend expects or demands that you cease your relationship with another friend? Didn’t we leave that type of behavior behind in junior high school? I can hear the 7th grader demanding:  “You can’t be friends with so and so because I don’t like them anymore!”  Or “I won’t play with you anymore if you are friends with so and so.”  Or  “You can’t be in my club because you are friends with X.” Sadly, some people I know willingly play these games and easily throw good people aside, people to whom they professed friendship, simply because these good people have relationships with folks their purported “friend” doesn’t like, is upset with or struggling to understand. I find this behavior immature, petty and plain old mean spirited. It is certainly not the behavior of a “true friend” or that of a good person.

I don’t take my friendships lightly and don’t profess to be someone’s friend unless I am willing to do my part to maintain the relationship and to be honest and open with them. I may not always succeed, but this is my intent. And sometimes being open and honest with a friend can be painful. But it is real and genuine. I want my friends to be who they are, fully and completely. I don’t expect us to like the same people or to have the exact same circle of friends. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be disagreements amongst friends or that we share identical opinions on all topics.  But when we do disagree, we do so with honesty and integrity and most importantly, respect.  We allow each other to view the world through our individual lenses and are free to share and discuss our respective points of view. We value and respect each other’s individuality, unique gifts and talents. To me, these are some of the great gifts that flow from true friendship.  I want friends with whom I can be my most authentic and true self. True friendship is to be treasured and valued. It enhances us an individuals and enriches our lives.  At least it has mine.

My experiences over the last many months have made me realize that for many people the term “friend” is really just a synonym for the term “acquaintance;” that  the words “I am your friend” are used frequently because friendship is socially valued and makes the person using the words feel good about themselves and elevates them in the eyes of their peers. After all, being a “good person” means having a lot of friends.  Doesn’t it?

But for my taste, many people throw the word “friend” around too easily. Perhaps they do so to impress others, because it suits them in the moment, or because they think saying they are a friend will get them something. This realization is both painful and discouraging. Maybe I am just operating from a different playbook.  Or maybe I am just naïve about friendship.

The good news, for me at least, is that I am blessed with some wonderful “true friends” who are honest and have integrity. Who do more than talk the talk; for whom the words “I am your friend” truly mean something, both in thought and deed. True friendship does not know distance or time. And so, to my “true friends,” thank you. You are amazing and wonderful people and I am blessed to have you in my life. And to those of you who have claimed to be my friend but your words were hollow or borne out of self –interest, thanks, but no thanks. I only have room in my life for true friends.

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An Intensive Start To 2010

January 6, 2010

2010 is off to a great start! I just returned from a four-and-a-half day psychodrama directing intensive in Phoenix, AZ, which I attended with one of my best friends, Fredi Sison. The trainer was Rebecca Walters of the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute. For those who aren’t familiar with directing intensives, the format is designed specifically to help folks who are learning to direct psychodrama and/or who are looking to improve their directing, increase their skills and proficiency. The intensive is limited to nine participants each of whom directs a two-hour psychodrama session including warm up, protagonist selection, action and sharing. After each drama, a full hour is spent thoroughly and completely processing the drama, discussing the psychodramatic method, director’s choices, options and ideas for improvement. Sociometry is also incorporated into the teaching. Feedback is specific and concrete. The intensive is a positive and safe environment in which to learn more about directing and to grow your skills and improve.

In addition to the opportunity to direct a full drama and run a group session, each participant gets to be a protagonist. I have found that working on my own issues and being in the role of the protagonist has helped me grow as a person and has been a great way to learn more about directing. Every time I am a protagonist I learn something new about directing.

One of the things that made this intensive so wonderful were the participants in attendance. In addition to me, Fredi and Rebecca, six other women from Arizona and Minnesota participated. (Unfortunately, the ninth participant had to cancel at the last minute due to a death in her family.) Five of the other six participants were mental health professionals and the sixth a woman with a PhD who has spent her career in academia. All of us have trained with various other psychodramatists across the country. Only three of the participants (including Fredi and me) are certified practitioners of psychodrama. The breadth of experience using psychodrama the group collectively brought to the intensive and the variety of ways in which each of us has done so added richness to the learning. We each brought our unique style to our directing and the laboratory in which we learned together was rich with new ideas.

There is something special and wonderful about working with an entire group of women. There were no egos, no attitudes or competition.  The group was incredibly supportive, collaborative and nurturing.  Our creativity flourished. The willingness to share and help each other grow and improve was powerful. Kindness and compassion were ever present.  We both laughed and cried together. I have participated in many psychodrama workshops over the years but this one was special given the wonderful, caring and talented women in attendance. I have added six new friends to my social atom.

I can’t yet articulate all that I learned but I know I have grown as a director and as a person. My personal drama was painful but gave me great insight into myself and a relationship I have deep pain about. I am eternally grateful for the group, the director who led me through my drama and for the insights I gained and the new ideas and tools I will add to my arsenal.

It was particularly wonderful to spend time with Fredi. She is an amazing woman, treasured friend and genuine person. She inspires me in so many ways and together, along with Mary Peckham, our creative energy sustains and energizes me. I am so blessed to have both Fredi and Mary in my life. I have no words to express all they mean to me or how much each of them has helped me grow.

2009 was a very difficult and painful year for me in many ways. I am more than glad to put it behind me.  Although 2010 is in its infancy, I am already building the foundation for a great year.

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Speaking Out – By Carl Bettinger

December 7, 2009

For the past few months  I’ve thought of little but Larry Selk’s story, the profoundly disabled man who was sodomized in a resident care home.  Towards the end of my closing, I told the jurors that I recognized that it is scary to speak up and be heard, yet doing so is sometimes necessary. I should not ask of my jurors anything more than I ask of myself.

During the trial, I was asked to staff Round Top in February.  Normally, I would have signed on without a moment’s hesitation.  I’ve decided not to staff the Round Top program. This is the first time I have not accepted a request to staff that was not related to work or family matters since I began staffing in 2003.  I can go to Texas in February, but I choose not to. This isn’t easy for me, as I believe that the TLC which now exists is one that may decide to remove me from staff for speaking up, a removal that I do not want, but if I can’t say what I want and need to say without fear of retribution, I don’t belong here.

Two months ago, when I showed up to staff the Advanced Program at the Ranch, I was asked by Jude Basile to resign from the Board. While it was deemed a “request”, there did not seem to be any volition involved. I agreed to do so, as I was planning to resign after the Board Meeting in January, 2010. However, I  was bothered by the timing of it, and the disingenuous way it was done. It occurred the first night that staff showed up for the program and without any forewarning. The decision to ask for my resignation clearly had been made long in advance of my arrival. To me it felt as though I had been kept in the dark so that I would prepare for and show up to staff the Advanced without having a chance to consider whether to attend at all under the circumstances. To my knowledge, my “resignation” from the Board, and those of Lynne Bratcher, Katlin Larimer and Fredi Sison, were requested without a formal Board vote.

There have been many changes in recent years at TLC that trouble me, and many relate the extent to which important decisions are made behind closed doors. I am not suggesting that the Board not make decisions, but why are the minutes not available to all alumni? In fact, why does the Board self-select? Why not an election of Board members by the alumni? Since people have questions about the finances, why not simply post the books to the web page so any alum can examine them? When I was on the Board (albeit the shortest tenure ever for any Board member!), I was shown the books. Why not show them to everyone? Why are staff evaluations not disclosed to the very staff being evaluated, and how many of you know this is the practice, i.e., not to show them to staff?

Why are so many decisions, particularly those of consequence, made in secret? Who has been removed from staff, when, and by whom? Will this be formally announced, or will these staff simply disappear? It would seem that Joane is no longer a member of the TLC staff. When was this decision made? And by whom? Why not put it to a vote of the alumni, many of whom return again and again as students?     Why should so many, particularly staff, feel reluctant to speak up for fear of retribution? During Grad II, Fredi Sison utilized a modified psychodramatic  exercise which probably has a formal name, but I will call “Step-in.” The group forms a large circle. A person steps in and says, “Who else here [fill in the blank]?”  Our psychodramatists had used this in other contexts before, usually asking people for a personal sharing. This time, however, the share was not limited. Participants asked wonderful questions, e.g., “Who else here has had to care for a dying loved one?”; “Who has ever lived with a mentally ill person?” “Who considers their body a friend?”   A collection of these would be enough for a book on jury selection. I asked, “Who is afraid to speak their truth at TLC for fear of retribution of some sort?” Many group members stepped in. After this year’s staff training, I suspect that number would be much higher if that question were posed to the staff.

My concerns include the loss or marginalization of those who, to my way of thinking, make TLC possible, particularly the psychodramatists.  It should go without saying that our psychodramatists are the finest of their kind in the world. To say we are lucky to have them is like saying the world is lucky to have oxygen. Yet, they have become increasingly marginalized over the years, particularly this year in the way they have not been fairly compensated. (If money is a problem, I sincerely doubt that the TLC community would not do what is necessary.) The college’s curriculum is unique because of psychodrama, and it succeeds because of psychodrama.  John Nolte,  who had been with the College from its earliest times, has contributed much over the years.  Not only his outstanding psychodramatic skills, but his sense of humor, his compassion, his sense of fair play have made this college a special place for so many.  He told me he had been invited to Round Top, but that TLC would not pay his way (although one Board member graciously offered to pay for it personally); rather he was expected to pay his own way and to teach without pay.  I find that insulting.  Katlin has been responsible for many of the exercises that we use at the college. She has the most institutional knowledge of all, but has been increasingly sidelined. Don is our guru on groups, Kathie our luminary on speaking your mind, and Louise Lipman, our newest, is out of this world. They are part of the very essence of TLC, yet are being treated as though they are otherwise.

My concerns continue with other fantastic staff we have lost over the years. Charlie Abourezk is gone. Garvin Isaacs is gone. Susan Mindenbergs, Cricket. All gone, either by their choice or design. Joane was told she would be asked to staff and she has not been, nor would there appear to be any intention to ask her.  Fredi Sison would appear to have joined this circle of non-staff. After Joane left, Fredi volunteered as the executive director of two programs, Grad II and the Advanced, both of which turned out great. She not only oversaw each program, but she created the curriculum and developed a new exercise (which I referred to in my postings about my recent trial as the “social atom”, but which my notes from Grad II label “Exploring the Cast”).  Are there any public defenders left on staff?

We are losing some of the best people in the college.  Some have left by their own choice, and some have been forced out. Obviously, the leadership can choose whomever they want to be part of the college, be it student or staff.  But they shouldn’t get to do so without anyone speaking up. In his nearly celestial eloquence, Dr. King once said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

At the risk of being the latest to be pushed out the door, this is my way of honoring my friends and Larry’s jurors.

Carl

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Darling, I am Here For You

June 29, 2009

In our darkest times, we often turn to our friends to help us get through the challenges life throws at us. I know this has been true for me over the last few years and particularly true over the last several months.

If you have been reading my blog, you know I have engaged in many struggles during the last year. I got married in October to the love of my life without my sisters attending or participating in that joyous, and for me, momentous event. I became deeply depressed due to chronic burn out and work related stress. I decided to leave my job; a job I have given all of my self to, heart and soul, for over nine years. Each of these events posed incredible challenges to me, challenges which I am not sure I could have overcome without the love, support and understanding of some incredible friends.

By friends I do not mean acquaintances, or people you simply know through membership in similar groups or organizations. I mean people who know who I am, deeply and personally, who have heard the pain of my soul and stood by me when it was difficult to do so. For most of us, such true friends are few and far between. I can count mine on one hand.

Thich Nhat Hahn (a Buddhist monk) has a saying: “The greatest gift you can give someone is to say ‘Darling, I am here for you.’” When someone you call friend puts this saying into action and is truly there for you, it is indeed an incredible gift, one with which I have been blessed time and time again.

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the friends who have listened, held my confidences, cared, supported and loved me more than I feel entitled. Your words of caring and comfort created the beacon that led me through the dark tunnel I found myself in for the last few months. You gave me hope and encouraged me to find my path. And you became my champions, believing in me and lifting me up when I felt I could not go on. I am truly blessed to have you in my life and I so look forward to our continued friendship.

The only way to repay you for all you have given me is to remind you that; “Darling, I am here for you.” I will answer your call when you reach out and will be there for you as you have been for me.